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Overflow Interest, Overflow Seating

March 6, 2010
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(This title graphic comes from http://www.lyndonstate.edu/AboutLyndon/ProgramsInstitutes/ConferenceOffice/ConferenceSeatingOptions.aspx )

Overflow Interest, Overflow Seating

The HIMSS meeting was clearly well attended, and that included the keynote presentations, with industry notables including David Blumenthal, Barry Chaiken, and " Sully" Sullenberger III, US Airways pilot, to name only a few of the exciting ones. As a result, the room and overflow rooms were apparently packed, with the back and side walls populated by a standing room only audience.

And yet, there were plenty of seats vacant in both rooms, probably 10% to 20% of the seats in fact, based on what I observed.

What happened and who cares?

Well, as shown in this exemplary picture, long rows of seats were accessible from too few aisle entrances. To complicate matters, many conference attendees were wheeling roller bags for their briefcase/laptop needs. This makes internal seats logistically inaccessible. Long rows of seats with one aisle entrance for an enclosed 15 or more seats doesn't support conference attendee needs.

This part of the story is only slightly more complicated, but in an important way. Conference goers need to be able, on an individual basis, to come late and/or leave early. The number of activities and locations that many attendees need to harmonize creates a geometrically large inflow and outflow demand on a large percentage of the seats. This is the real use case. "Congress Seating" with one aisle on either end of a long row of seats doesn't match HIMSS conference attendee needs.

Sure, adding more aisles will cut down on the total number of seats. It would, however, simultaneously increase the number of effective seats in both the main keynote speaking venue and the overflow rooms.

HIMSS, being a Systems Society and all is always looking for ways to improve. Is seating an opportunity? Should HIMSS planners care? What are your thoughts.



Here's a copy of Dr Barry Chaiken's keynote address:

/Media/BlogReplies/2010-03-01 Barry P Chaiken, HIMSS Keynote - aka BP10192.pdf

Thanks Barry, for your fabulous work as conference chair, and generously making your presentation available to those who were not able to attend.

I hope that future HIMSS plenary presentations are similarly made available, ideally in video (like TedTalks, the Harvard Quality Colloquium, and Google's video series.)  Are HIMSS plenary speakers at the same, high quality level?

Jack, Thanks for your insight. I hadn't really considered a bag check service. I was thinking more of additional aisles, especially in the wide but relatively shallow overflow rooms. Said differently, less long runs of internal, inaccessible seats.  Since many wheeled-bags are light enough to lift, moving them into a shallow row of seats is infinitely more practical than the current situation.

Part of the issue is that the seats this year were the interlocking type. From the back of the room, one could see large areas of empty seats. The only way to access them would be to climb over the backs of other empty seats. That's obviously nuts.

I think the extra service need only be for HIMSS to be more prescriptive with the conference center planners in how their attendees need their seats.  Perhaps HIMSS attendees are different attendees at other conferences.

The current arrangement reminds me of a time in hospitals where no one appreciated how dangerous it was to have floor-stock, high dose potassium. It's not stupid or moronic ... it's just thoughtless. Little things can make a big difference.  Paying attention to logistics can often lead to big improvements at no increase in costs.

Venues like this are the norm for conventions and large special events. Planners prepare for problems, but can go just so far. Probably the best case scenario is a "workaround" in which HIMSS arranges for a secure area where attendees can temporarily "check" their bulky belongings, and tells attendees well in advance that such items are not permitted at certain forums.

Although I understand why some individuals need to cart their "stuff" around the event, it's actually discourteous on their part to inconvenience others. But then again, look at the mess all of us face with the airlines. The problems caused by carryon morons in the not too distant past have been compounded by these mismanaged companies charging to check luggage. Arguably the antithesis of what they should be doing.

All of us in HCIT are brutally familiar with workarounds. HIMSS should consider proving an extra service, but the HCIT types that attend the event share in the responsibility to make things run smoothly.